Taster Portland Stone Carving Workshops For Dorset Art Weeks in Weymouth

Taster Stone Carving Workshops

Art With a View Exhibition Garden
View over the Garden to Portland Harbour.

With the first Taster Stone Carving workshops finished awaiting the next. I reflected on the fantastic sculptures created by the first students. How fast they learnt and grew in confidence. The weather held and dare I say it? It was nearly too hot! The setting looking across Portland Harbour towards Portland was inspiring. Especially as we were carving the beautiful Portland stone. I specifically chose stones with the finest grain to capture the smallest of details.

The Workshop

As usual, there was the normal nervousness of my students, at first confronted by the stone and the carving techniques to learn. But within a few minutes, I could see their confidence growing. I really enjoyed listening to the sound of chisels being tapped, which was definitely music to my ears. As time went on the rhythm became more regular showing their mastery of the tools and technique.

Of course, there were the usual little accidents, a few chips here and there. The Celtic knotwork pieces needed a little bit of unravelling.

Under? Over? Nevertheless, we did succeed with a little perseverance and some backstitching. I never succeeded in getting my Knots badge at the Sea Scouts!

Stone carving Taster Courses Weymouth
Budding First Time Sculptors At The Taster Workshops

So after just a few hours, the masterpieces were finally finished and I think for complete beginners they did brilliantly. As shown below. Each piece was unique and original. I think they surprised themselves. With one student taking on some small blocks to continue their stone carving journey. Once again another client catches the creative bug. Will you be the next one?

In fact, although I have been carving for over 40yrs I,m still learning and I feel particularly privileged to be able to pass on my passion for stone carving. P.S. A bit of future competition?

Art with a View

To see my Sculptures in this stunning environment was amazing. Especially, my sail sculptures beside the coast edge. Overlooking the harbour and Portland Isle, as well as Chesil Beach in the background. Of course the ideal setting for my Maritime theme. The amazing views around were breathtaking and what a site to inspire your artistic juices. As an Artist who loves above all natures forms and curves, I was in my element. Watching Portlands shape change as the weather conditions came and went. At the same time, the nearby sea’s surface would change its aspect, sometimes smooth at other times rough. In addition, the only problem being as the wind changed direction I had to turn the sculptures to be in the right direction! Only joking.

Sail VII. Portland & Savernake Stone.
Sail VII. Portland & Savernake Stone.

If you would like to try your hand at Stone Carving, do contact me. I will, in brief, teach you the basic techniques to carve your sculpture from a block of stone to an accomplished finished art piece. After you can proudly take it home to show off to your friends and family. Not to mention the memories of having a creative experience. Of course, there’s an Artist in every one of us!

” I really enjoyed my Beginners Stone Carving Workshops and am now the proud owner of three Portland stone carvings in my garden. If you are interested in trying stone carving, I would thoroughly recommend John’s workshops” Susan.

For those that are looking for accommodation, there are onsite flats to rent next to a swimming pool as well as access to the beautiful Castle Cove Beach. Just follow this link. Glenthorne.

Leaf Stone Sculpture

Stone Leaf Sculpture

Portland Stone Leaf Sculpture In the Making

This is a stone leaf sculpture I’m carving for the next exhibition in Weymouth. Art With a View, Dorset Art Weeks, 26th May-10th June, Venue 228.15, Old Castle Road, Weymouth. DT4 8QB. With other fantastically talented local artists, Olivia Nurrish, Andrea Frankham Hughes, Clare Francis Buckle.

This sculpture was inspired by previous work as well as the natural forms of leaves. No two the same. Their beautiful curves evolved to capture sunlight,( a bit like my sculptures?)

Stone Leaf Sculpture

Block of Portland Stone for Leaf Sculpture

Working from the chosen block of Portland Stone and a rough idea, I begin by sketching out some profiles of curves. I guess a sculpture is an infinite amount of silhouettes that become a form.

Roughing out Stone Leaf Sculpture

Roughing out Stone Leaf Sculpture

After the tracing of the shape, I begin roughing out the form using a stone grinder. Trying to get as close to the form as possible without going too far! Which unfortunately sometimes it does! Still learning.

Then using chisels to refine the shape. Finally adjusting any bumps or dips using different grades of sandpaper until I’m happy with the result.

Leaf Stone Sculpture

Leaf Stone Sculpture

Next comes the base. Which is actually quite difficult to choose. I do like the contrast of using another material, Wood, Steel, which compliment the sculpture. Still trying to figure out this one. Maybe a tree trunk would work? Watch this space.

While carving this sculpture so many different permutations have suggested themselves. I’ve learnt over time not to try and do everything in just one piece. To finish my original idea and then to move onto the next one. Some patience is involved as stone carving is a lengthy process

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this small insight into my working progress. Will post some pictures of the final sculpture ASAP. Obviously, for the tactile side of my work, you’ll have to come to the exhibition to see for yourselves. I will be holding some taster stone carving workshops for those of you who fancy some chipping! Have a look at my workshop page for details, dates and times will soon be fixed. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Sculptor John Davey Dorset

My Most Recent Abstract Stone Sculpture

I’ve just finished carving my most recent Abstract Stone Sculpture in beautiful Portland Basebed. Really pleased with the result. It started off with an elliptical shape I appear to use quite regularly. As people have favourite colours for no apparent reason,( mine is blue) I have my favourite shapes!


Abstract Sculpture of Shield Form in Stone.

.”Shield II” Portland Stone, Hardwood. 81.5 x 36 x 26 cms.

Its only after the carving of the sculpture that I can stand back and see the influences, forms that have inspired me. Surfboards, tribal shields, leaves. Take your pick?

So I,m pretty busy at the moment getting ready for the Dorset Art Weeks in a couple of months showing with other talented local artists. Carving on my days off from working as a Health Care Assistant and when it isn’t snowing!

The year has started off quite well, showing my sculptures at different galleries. Fingers crossed! But as usual, there were a few hiccups. My good old Honda generator gave up on me, full of stone dust and obviously tired from my lack of attention.( Like topping it up with oil).

Then I decided to try my hand at carving Slate. I love the tight grain and the bluey-grey colour. Everything was going quite well as I carved the first stone only to find at the final polish that there was a small crack running through the middle! Well as I can be quite stubborn I started on another slab, checking it beforehand. Only to find another crack!

I then decided to change to another stone and found some Irish Limestone which carved beautifully. Here’s the result.

Latest Abstract Sculpture “Leap”

Abstract Stone sculpture in shape of fish.

“Leap” Irish and Portland Stone. 37.6 x 32.4 x 11.6 cms.

Obviously, my most recent Abstract Stone Sculpture is a continuous process. Still making others! Looking forward to any feedback and I hope you enjoy this little insight into my creative processes. Feel free to share and hopefully you might find the time to see the finished abstract sculptures during the Dorset Art Weeks. I will be animating a few taster stone carving workshops if you fancy a try? Dates and times to be fixed. Watch this space.

How I Carve an Abstract Stone Sculpture

The Creative Process

Thought I would just show you, How I Carve an Abstract Stone Sculpture. In this particular piece, I was inspired by different curves, how they cross and intersect. It’s a recurrent theme that has been inspiring me for many of my work,s. It’s been carved in a  piece of Portland Basebed Stone, which has a beautiful fine grain. Perfect for a light polish.

The Idea

Sketch of " Cut" Sculpture.
Sketch of ” Cut ” Sculpture

To begin with I make a few rough sketches. Giving me different proportions and forms. As you can see there’s another idea on the page for reflecting pebbles. Will have to get back to that one. From one initial idea, there can be so many variations. It’s difficult for your hands to keep up with your imagination.

The Portland Stone

The next stage is finding the right stone for the sculpture. I find it really helpful to have a stock of different sized stones to choose from. After selecting the appropriate stone. ( I always check the grain of the Stone, making sure there are no faults.) However it wouldnt be the first time, when finishing a piece a crack appears! I then draw out the profile by hand which gives me a reference to the final form. Of course Portland has a couple of good quarries where you can find some off-cuts to carve. I source my stones at Albion Stone.

Drawing the Profile
Sketching out of profile on Block of Portland Stone

Carving The Profile

Then I use stone grinders and spinners to rough out the profile. While I’m carving I can then refine the curves, finding the correct shape.

Roughing out stone sculpture
Carving The Profile

Roughing out the Form

Sculpture is the Art of the Hole and the Bump.

Auguste Rodin

The next step is to find its three-dimensional form. I begin by drawing out chamfers which are progressively carved smaller and smaller. In brief the width of each chamfer determines the finished shape.

Shaping the form
Roughing out main form.

Refining the Form

The sculpture is then refined using files and different grades of abrasive papers. Its during this process, that I work out any small bumps or dips. All and all the imperfections that are not seen by eye are really found out by my hands passing over the surface. After I then work out the base, trying different stones, sizes, textures. I then drill through each stone to insert stainless steel rods. Finally, these are fixed in place by using a strong stone epoxy glue.

Ready for assemble
The Refined Shape with Base

Final Abstract Stone Sculpture

"Cut" Portland Stone Sculpture by John Davey
“Cut” Portland Stone

So I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into how I work. Moreover, I will be busy getting ready for the Dorset Art Weeks in a few months. Additionally tutoring a few taster stone carving workshops for those that fancy getting creative and will be setting dates, details as we come closer. So without delay its time to get chipping!

Sail Sculpture in Stone

Showing my Stone Sculptures in the Coastal Gallery Lymington

Showing my Stone Sculptures in the Coastal Gallery is such a treat. The Gallery has notably a great selection of Artworks. Many different styles and media. There is quite a significant Maritime theme including very colourful paintings, ceramics and Sculpture. Well worth a visit. Furthering my audience. ” Sail V ” and ” Tale “.

Coastal Gallery is a leading independent contemporary art gallery, situated in Lymington in the New Forest

Coastal Gallery, Lymington, is a touchstone for exceptional and unusual contemporary art and design. Working with both emerging and long-established artists, the gallery specialises in collecting modern and contemporary art with an intrinsic life-enhancing value. Coastal Gallery champions painters, sculptors and designers, based locally and in London. Displaying outstanding talent, creativity and technical expertise in their work.

The Coastal Gallery collection is curated by Stewart Mechem and Bev Saunders. Together, they bring years of experience working in the art, fashion and design worlds.With a keen eye for contemporary design and a thorough knowledge of what’s trending on the broader art and design market, Bev and Stewart have an instinct for sourcing the best range of artwork for each and every client. Coastal Gallery’s aim is to excite and inspire with an ever-changing selection of painting, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery.  http://www.coastal-gallery.co.uk

Sail V. Abstract Portland Stone Sculpture

This Stone Sculpture is a variation on a series I ‘ve been working on recently. Inspired by the dynamic and sculptural forms of sails. I find the fragility of the Portland Stone carved to its structural limit and the tension of the wind-blown sail really work well together. Since I was a youngster I’ve been fascinated by the Sea. Consequently, pulling on these memories to demonstrate Natures beauty. There’s a very relevant connection from the Sail Sculpture to Portland stone which was formed in a marine environment. Unfortunately, mine doesn’t float!

“Tale”. Carrara Marble.

Abstract stone sculpture.

Here, in particular, I ‘ve been playing with circular shapes. Bisecting them to see the forms they create. I particularly enjoy carving these abstract shapes. Especially as the viewers can interpret the forms in their own way. Some might, for example, see a Butterfly others a Whales Tail. Its been the first time I’ve carved Carrara Marble. What a beautiful stone it is. Consequently, I had to learn the techniques of polishing which is a long process. I specifically contrasted the sculpture and the base by using different stones. This really emphasizes the patterns and textures.

So whenever you find yourself in the area of Lymington do definitely drop in and have a look in this Gallery. Certainly, look out for my Stone Sculptures.

My Good Friend Joseph Smith

While living in France I was lucky enough to meet this great Artist Joseph Smith. A master of technique and creativity. He worked in many media,s, stone, wood, clay. This little painting was inspired by random splashes and shapes on watercolour paper.

One of his favourite techniques while having his breakfast was to place a piece of paper under his coffee cup and then use any stains or splashes as a catalyst for his imagination.

Using coffee, tea and watercolours to create some beautiful paintings. He also used red onions, boiling them to make a reddish wash. I guess there’s a lot of natural pigments which you can make yourself.

Watercolour by Joseph Smith
Minotaur I

In Joe,s own words.

“Through various series in my work I have attempted to put into more realistic proportion man’s relationship to nature, the animal kingdoms…and to himself.”

“I wish for my works to allow viewers to hopefully re-examine their own relative importance in relationship with the vast natural wonder that we are actually infinitesimal within..”

If you’d like to see more of his brilliant artwork please visit his website. www.josephsmitharts.com

Sculptor John Davey Dorset

Portrait of the Artist By His Son

The Portrait

My Son Sean drew this portrait of me as an artist when he was ten, in 2006. I think he,s really captured my character. Especially the Celtic Nose! It always amazes me how young children have that creative talent, no preconceptions or limitations. They have an innocence. Looking at the world through fresh eyes. Not tainted by conventions or worries.

Drawing of the artist by Son
Portrait of John by his Son Sean

Working Together

While I was living in France in the Province working as a stonemason to make ends meet. I would frequently take my son Sean with me to help on the building sites. As you can see from the following photo!

At first, I thought he would slow me down, but in actual fact, he was more meticulous. Thus jointing stones precisely, giving the concrete mixer a good clean and many other jobs which helped me along. In some way, I was of course passing on the basic techniques of my trade. As well as important work ethics. For instance getting up early, hard work, initiative. The love of accomplishing good work.

Son helping on Site
My Son Sean helping me!

This particular project was to carve and build two stone pillars for ” Le Chateau de la Commanderie” in a village called St Siffret in the Province.( A Knights Templar Castle.)

A lot of preparation was needed for the pillars to support the heavy iron gates which were installed later. At first making one reinforced concrete foundation that crossed from one pillar to the other, consolidating their rigidity. Additionally, all the stones were hand-carved to leave the tool marks apparent. Subsequently harmonising with the age of the Castle itself.

Stone Pillars La Commanderie St Siffret
Restoration of Pillars at le Commanderie St Siffret France

I also look back at this special time working alongside my son and realise how important it was. He’s now coming up to his 25th birthday. Where does the time go? Hope you enjoyed this Portrait of the Artist by His Son page. Feel free to visit my sculpture page to see my personal artworks.

They grow up so fast. 

My Son Weymouth
Sean, Weymouth 2017

Pablo Picasso famously said ” Every child is an Artist the problem is how to remain an Artist once we grow up.”

Art Trophy

how to become an artist

Reminiscing over my Artistic past. Winning 1st Prize for art at the St John’s Youth Club in Belfast at the age of ten. Never been prouder and still have the trophy taking pride of place on my mantelpiece! It is a bit battered, a bit like myself! But it gave me the incentive to carry on.

O. k. some may say it was a fix as my parents and close family where Youth Leaders there! I would just like to clarify on this point that no bribery was involved. No washing dishes for Mum or washing Dads car. ( Actually he didn’t have one !) So you can see it was just natural talent!

Art Trophy

John Davey. St Johns Youth Club. First
Art Winner 1971

Today I must admit that every time I finish a sculpture, I feel I,ve won a prize. The chance to have the tools,materials and time to create. Also to be lucky enough to meet people who take enjoyment from my work and those that adopt them having them in their homes.

I still cherish my old trophy and at the time it was like winning Gold at the Olympics. I wonder how many of us have a prize from our childhood that really touched us? A medal for running, a Cup for Football, something really special that gave us recognition and the passion to continue.

Here’s to all the people who take the time to pass on their passion to future generations, Coaches, Youth Club Workers, Teachers, Parents, Friends. Bravo.


Two Sculptures Finished. Another Started.

After the mayhem of disorder these two sculptures pulled themselves together!

Following my series of Sail sculptures, this one is more angled, leaning back. Much more like a Windsurfing sail. Changing its dynamic. Remember sailing in Portland Harbour in a Force 7-8, leaning back into the wind, trying to read the surface of the water for the next gust. Frequently misjudging and being catapulted head over head unable to release the harness in time!

” Sail VII ” Portland and Savernake Stone.

This Sculpture ” Tale ” in Carrara Marble and Black Granite took a bit of carving. Learning how to cut and polish harder stones. Working through several grades of abrasives to get the final polish. Really pleased with the result. The form goes back to playing with circular curves, bisecting each other. I think its a bit like the shapes of Butterfly Wings but you may see other things?

” Tale ” Carrara Marble & Black Granite


Carving Stone Sculptures

Working on a few sculptures at the moment. Quite like the mayhem playing through various ideas, materials and forms. Watching them pull together. Just having the materials around me gives me inspiration for other projects. Dust everywhere! Carving Stone Sculptures.

Here’s a few pics of works in progress and the disorder that will hopefully result in some interesting pieces.